AN ARTICLE IN FRIDAY'S WEEKEND SECTION HAD AN INTERSTATE ROUTE NUMBER WRONG IN DIRECTIONS TO HERSHEY, PA. TO REACH HERSHEY FROM THE CAPITAL BELTWAY, TAKE I-95 NORTH TO I-695 NORTH TO I-83 NORTH TO HARRISBURG AND THEN ROUTE 322 EAST TO HERSHEY. (PUBLISHED 08/31/99)
Once upon a time, the King of Chocolate had a vision: He would build a huge chocolate factory and surround it with a town with affordable housing for his workers. And then he would build a park, for their recreation, and other buildings: a theater, a stadium, an arena, a museum and more.
Today, a century after Milton S. Hershey's chocolate empire spread worldwide, the town of Hershey, Pa., remains true to his vision. Hershey Foods still dominates the town, owning 42 percent of the real estate. The main street is Chocolate Avenue, and the street lights on it are shaped like Hershey Kisses. His creations -- from planned company town to grand hotel, from theme park to theater -- remain a vibrant tribute to his dream. And the school for orphans Hershey founded in 1918 is thriving (it now also educates the children of single parents).
About the only thing that has changed is that the town Hershey designed for his employees is now a major tourist attraction, luring visitors to its mock factory tour, its theme park, zoo and cultural activities.
There was a time when visitors could tour the actual Hershey factory and savor the smell of fresh chocolate. But the crowds became too big to accommodate, so the Hershey people created Chocolate World (Park Boulevard; 717/534-4900), where 52 tram cars take visitors on a free 12-minute, Disney-like tour that explains how milk chocolate is made, from bean to bar. Though the tour lacks the smell of the real product, it ends at a chocolate-filled shopping mall, where vendors sell freshly made chocolate chip cookies, scoop up hot fudge sundaes and sell every variety of Hershey chocolates, often in enormous containers. Chocolate World is also the town's official information center, with knowledgeable guides to help you plan your visit. This tour is fascinating, but Chocolate World is best left until the end of your day. The chocolate cookies, ice cream and candies are so tempting that one tends to pig out on the goodies and ignore the entertainment just next door.
Next to Chocolate World are four other prime attractions: Hersheypark, Zoo-America, the Hersheypark Arena and the Hershey Museum. Hersheypark (100 W. Hershey Park Dr.; 800/437-7439, 717/534-3400) is the descendant of the park Milton Hershey built for his employees in 1907. The 87-acre park offers more than 50 attractions, from gentle rides for toddlers to seven chilling roller-coasters, plus dolphin and sea lion shows, concerts and other activities. New this year is Hersheypark Fair, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition area that is designed to re-create an old-fashioned state fair. This amusement park is perfect for families with toddlers or young children. There are enough thrilling rides for any daredevil, but the park is small enough that you can visit it in less than a full day.
The ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park (100 W. Hershey Park Dr.; 717/534-3860), next to the amusement park, is an 11-acre wildlife preserve that features more than 75 species of North American mammals, reptiles, fowl and fish in nature settings. This is a small zoo, one that is perfectly sized for youngsters.
On the other side of the amusement park is the Hershey Museum (170 W. Hershey Park. Dr.; 717/534-3439), established by Milton Hershey in 1933, 12 years before his death. The museum has permanent exhibits on the life of Milton Hershey; on the folk art, textiles and furniture created by the early Pennsylvania Dutch; and on the pottery, clothing and ceremonial objects used by Native Americans.
The Hersheypark Arena (100 W. Hershey Park Dr.; 717/534-3911) is where the Hershey Bears, a minor league pro hockey team, plays. The Bears are another Hershey property. The adjacent 10,000-seat stadium also hosts circuses, concerts and ice skating shows.
The final attraction downtown is the Hershey Theatre (15 East Caracas Ave.; 717/534-3411), a beautiful 60-year-old house that seats 1,904 and is an example of the age when theaters were works of art. In the theater, "clouds" move across a ceiling that has been transformed into a sky filled with stars.
The theater hosts traveling Broadway shows, concerts, vintage films and other entertainment.
A short drive away, on the hillside below the elegant Hotel Hershey, is Hershey Gardens (170 Hotel Rd.; 717/534-3492), a 23-acre wonderland featuring 272 varieties of roses and more than 7,000 other plants. Children will enjoy seeing the 25 species of North American butterflies in the garden's Butterfly House.
When to Go
Hersheypark is open daily through Labor Day and then weekends only through Sept. 19. The Antique Automobile Club of America holds its huge Eastern Division National Fall meet Oct. 6-9, featuring more than 2,000 antique vehicles (717/534-1910). The Hersheypark Balloonfest attracts dozens of hot-air balloons Oct. 22-24 (717/534-3911). And Christmas is always a big celebration in Hershey, with a community tree-lighting ceremony, horse-drawn carriages, holiday concerts, breakfasts with Santa and special activities. For more information on these events, call 800/HERSHEY (800/437-7439).
Where to Stay
The Hotel Hershey, the Hershey Lodge & Convention Center and the Highmeadow Campground are owned and operated by the Hershey Entertainment & Resort Co. The 241-room Hotel Hershey, located on a hill overlooking the city, is a Mediterranean-style resort hotel with golf, tennis, swimming pools and other activities. The Hershey Lodge is more casual than the Hotel Hershey, but no less attractive. For lodging reservations, call 800/533-3131.
All Hershey attractions are wheelchair accessible. For lodging information, visit the Web site: www.HersheyPa.com.
Most of the national chain hotels and motels have locations in the town.
Where to Eat
For casual dining, stop by the Chocolate World Cafe (717/533-2917) in Chocolate World or the Hershey Grill (717/520-5656) in the Hershey Lodge. For more elegant (and pricey) dining, the famous Circular Dining Room in the Hotel Hershey is the tops in town (717/534-8800).
Hersheypark offers concerts, and the Iberian Lounge in the Hotel Hershey always has a nice band for dancing on weekends. The Hershey Theatre presents "Company," Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award-winning musical, Oct. 19-24; "Cinderella," by the Moscow City Ballet, on Nov. 5; and "Peter Pan," starring Cathy Rigby, Nov. 19-21. For tickets and schedules, call 717/534-3411.
Hershey is about 125 miles north of Washington. From the Beltway, take I-95 to I-695 west to I-82 north to Harrisburg and then Route 322 east to Hershey.
For More Information
For a free 32-page visitors guide, contact the Harrisburg-Hershey-Carlisle Tourism & Convention Bureau at 800/995-0969 or 717/231-7788 or write to 25 North Front St., Harrisburg, PA 17101. For information more specific to Hershey attractions and lodging, call 800/HERSHEY (800/437-7439) or visit the Web site: www.HersheyPa.com. The Web site has a savings coupon good for $7 off Hersheypark admission.